This time of year, experts and organizations from across the industry release their lists of what trends they believe will resonate with consumers and drive innovation in 2024 and maybe even for years to come.
As exciting as this can be, what matters is what these trends will mean for you and, more importantly, for your consumers.
To help cut through the noise, I want to share what we see as our top four trends you need to know in 2024.
Tailored Health & Wellness
Though we are well into the post-pandemic era, health, wellness, and nutrition remain top of mind for most people.
In an effort to address these concerns, many consumers are turning to food as an essential part of their solution. According to Innova, 83% of global consumers see healthy food choices as important to maintaining their health.
However, what makes this trend interesting is that it’s no longer just about maintenance but also prevention.
In a separate survey, Innova Insights found that more than 1 in 3 consumers now claim to be proactive in preventing health issues.
While weight management remains the number one physical concern, food and beverages that can provide additional functional health benefits are primed for a breakout year.
From improving gut health and boosting immunity to reducing stress and increasing energy, this expanding list of functional health benefits will allow shoppers to tailor their nutritional needs from more aisles of the supermarket than ever before.
As a result, Dr Bernd Koehler, Edlong’s Global VP of R&D, believes ingredients will be put front and centre. “Consumers are becoming more educated about ingredients and their claimed benefits. Soon, it will become less about quantity and more about quality. Is this ingredient actually bioavailable? Does this product deliver on the benefits it claims? Products that can answer yes to those questions have an opportunity to be very successful with consumers.”
Fortified with ingredients like protein, adaptogens and more, avoiding the stigma of “healthy = not delicious” for these products is what our next trend looks to accomplish.
Healthy & Healthier Indulgence
“People who are looking for specific health benefits in products are more willing to accept some taste challenges. In fact, they might even expect them,” says Dr. Koehler.
He continues, “Consumers often start to doubt if something tastes too good. They think, ‘There’s no way this can be healthy’.”
This could be why more than half of consumers say they are willing to compromise on indulgence for healthier food.
Dr. Koehler stresses that this is why companies like Edlong are working to rewrite that narrative, “Our job is to make the healthier choice the preferred choice for the average consumer. You get the health benefits, but it also tastes great, maybe even better. It’s not about the individual products but rather helping people live healthier lifestyles without having to compromise on enjoyment and taste. That’s what this is all about.”
That said, I don’t see this trend as a one-way street.
This means that, in addition to making healthier options more indulgent, we will see increasing calls to make traditionally indulgent categories healthier.
Over the past five years, we’ve already seen 14% growth globally in selected indulgent categories with active health claims.
Whether this comes from cleaner and better-for-you labels or added functional ingredients, successfully balancing health, nutrition, and taste will be necessary if your product plans to find itself in shoppers’ trollies regularly.
The key to providing the balanced indulgence consumers’ taste buds desire and demand may increasingly come from our next trend.
Innovative Flavour Profiles
When it comes to flavour, there will always be a place for the classics, but a large portion of today’s consumers are looking for something new, interesting, and exciting.
This is especially true for younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials), where roughly ⅓ say they are most influenced by new/unique/different flavours when purchasing food and beverage products.
In my recent article, “Getting a Taste of 2024 Taste Trends”, I took a deep dive into what look to be the main drivers of flavour innovation in the coming year:
- Perfect Pairings – Complex & Unexpected Combinations
- Traveling with Your Taste Buds – Global Flavours
“We live in a unique time,” says Dr Koehler, “With all the travel and globalization, we are seeing a cross-pollination of flavours from all over the world. What is traditional in one country can be fresh and innovative in another. I see a lot of these new flavors coming into the mainstream. It also creates a great opportunity for interesting and unique flavor combinations that can wow consumers.”
Snacks and beverages are perfect for limited-time offerings (LTOs) and can provide near-limitless potential for innovative flavour development.
Yet, with 3 in 5 consumers saying they are most likely to experiment with new flavours at home, finding equally innovative applications for people to test-drive these tastes will be critical, particularly when it comes to our final trend.
The Next Generation of Plant-Based
By now, plant-based has long since graduated from trend status and become a daily staple for many consumers.
Plant-based dairy, in particular, continues to hold its own, accounting for over 57% of US sales (USD 8 Billion) across all categories in the plant-based market.
Still, innovation may be more critical now than ever.
“We are coming to the end of the first generation of plant-based. Now people have higher expectations and standards, and they expect you to deliver on those. They want something novel. Companies will have to explore and offer new tastes, textures, and combinations to keep consumers trying and buying plant-based foods and beverages in the future.” explains Dr. Koehler.
Unfortunately, In a rush to get to market, some of these first-generation products overpromised, resulting in people leaving the category out of disappointment.
In this next evolution, consumers are looking for plant-based offerings that can bring variety to their diets.
It will be less about mimicking animal-based and more about creating unique, interesting, and convenient formats like finger foods and ready-to-eat meals that people can fit seamlessly into their lives.
At the end of the day, the biggest challenge for each of these trends comes down to one thing: taste. You might get the first purchase, but you need the second one for longevity.
We know flavour is only one piece of the puzzle, but it has the power to bring the whole picture into view, making or breaking the success of your product.
About the Authors
Anne Marie Butler, Global Director of Strategy and Innovation
I help food stakeholders from startups to CPGs solve complex flavor problems and accelerate innovation within the food space. Through my 15+ years of experience, I’ve gained skills as a food technologist, thought partner, and leader. My clients and team appreciate my collaborative, humanistic approach to problem solving. In an increasingly tech-centric world, I think that human connection is the source of innovation. Through my work, I’ve realized how important it is to be more proactive about inviting stakeholders into conversations around flavor innovation. I’m not working alone, and I don’t want to be thinking alone either.
Dr. Bernd Koehler, Global VP of R&D
Bernd has more than 20 years of international leadership experience in the food and analytical services industries, including Mars-Wrigley and McCain Foods. He is known for his ability to align technical capabilities with business needs using scientific methods, data, and creativity. He also has a passion for blending people and technical expertise to fuel growth and profitability. Bernd received his Dr. rer. nat. degree in Food Chemistry from the Bavarian Julius-Maximilians-University in Wuerzburg, Germany.